Messier 101

Messier 101

Messier 101

Messier 101 luminance only, just a few 5 minute shots with the Parsec 8300M under mediocre seeing conditions. My filter wheel started acting up and it’s basically time to upgrade camera and filter wheel!  I’m looking forward to getting the QHY16200 once it’s in stock..

The Mak should get more imaging time soon.  It just needs good seeing and actual time.

12 x 300 seconds
Parsec 8300M, binned 2×2
10″ f/10 Intes-Micro Rumak Maksutov-Cassegrain

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Milky Way Over the Texas Star Party

This Milky Way Over the Texas Star Party time lapse spans 3.8 hours starting around midnight 5/4/2016 over the Prude Ranch’s upper star field at the Texas Star Party. Canon 60Da, 25 second shots, 10 second interval, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, ISO 2500.  There is a hint of green and magenta airglow radiating from the horizon which you can see in HD resolution. It was DARK out there!

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Mercury Transit May 9, 2016

Get Ready for the Mercury Transit May 9, 2016!

Solar Kick-Off: Telescope Tips 

If you’re into astronomy like me, you’re chomping at the bit to experience the solar eclipse coming up in August 2017.  This eclipse promises to be a truly once in a lifetime experience, with over two minutes of totality visible from a huge swath of North America. But what’s a solar astronomer to do for the next 15 months until showtime?

Fortunately, to get our fix, there’s a semi-rare opportunity to see the Solar System’s innermost planet transit the Sun on May 9, 2016. To get the best view of Mercury’s transit, a filtered telescope is essential (and by filtered, make no mistake, it MUST be a front aperture solar filter or specialized solar telescope for safe viewing!)  Filtered binoculars can pull it off, but the disk of Mercury will be a mere 12 arcseconds in diameter – it will look like a dot at best. However, you’ll easily resolve a disk with a telescope, and it will be rewarding to see that disk cross over the Solar System’s fusion powerhouse.

When magnification is involved (let’s say 60x or higher), it’s generally recommended to have a telescope that tracks. Keep in mind computerized go-tos like the NexStar SLT 127 can be aligned on the Sun during the day, which is a huge advantage for outreach events where quick tracking is essential.

Mercury transiting the Sun (sunspot on left, Mercury on right), captured November 8, 2016. © Stellarscapes.net by Bryan Cogdell

 Events like these give me a special appreciation for our Solar System’s incredibly changeable and active nature.  Here we are, able to watch our Sun slinging a planet around its mighty gravitational pull in broad daylight, in just under 7.5 hours. Setting up a telescope just before dawn and catching a glimpse of Mercury as the sun rises is a small effort for a great view, and a great way to start the work day. I hope you’ll join me.

Be sure to check back to see new images of the Mercury Transit!

Reference pages:
http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/transit/catalog/MercuryCatalog.html
http://eclipsewise.com/oh/tm2016.html

Find equipment for the Mercury Transit here:
http://telescopes.net/store/solar.html

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New Hydrogen-Alpha Solar Telescope

Lunt LS50T Double Stack

Lunt LS50T Double Stack

I am excited to have purchased a new Lunt LS50T Hydrogen-Alpha Solar Telescope at NEAF from Woodland Hills Camera and Telescope. I went for the double-stack option to narrow the bandpass to just 0.5 Angstroms.  It’s amazing how much detail this little 50mm H-Alpha scope delivers.  And since I can actually image the Sun from an otherwise non-astronomy friendly area, I can get my astro-fix in broad daylight.  Also, it seems the small aperture holds up well in poor seeing, another plus for the area near work which has horrendous seeing (5” is not uncommon).

Some of the first images I took last week were of sunspot AR2529 which was distinctly heart-shaped. I’ve added them to the Solar System Gallery.

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Releasing More Images

There are still many astroimages that I haven’t processed, or have processed but didn’t bother posting.  In an effort to revamp my own imaging effort, I will be releasing more images.  Some will be revisited, reprocessed, or simply posted for the first time.  Here’s a simple 2 panel mosaic from a one-shot color Parsec 8300M of the North America and Pelican Nebula taken in August 2011, for example.  It’s now in the Nebulae gallery.

North America and Pelican Nebula

North America and Pelican Nebula

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M81, M82 and NGC 3077

M81, M82 & NGC 3077

M81, M82 & NGC 3077

The shortest of the 3 images taken on the weekend of February 6th.  This is ordinarily a galaxy duo, but this particular frame also captures the more obscure NGC 3077 galaxy seen on the far bottom right.

Just 10 x 8 minute exposures
Sky-Watcher Esprit 100mm f/5.5
Canon 60Da
AP900GTO
Captured in Pinion Pines, above Frazier Park, CA February 6, 2016

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M101 Wide Field

M101 Wide Field

M101 Wide Field

This M101 Wide Field image also captures a few interesting background galaxies including NGC5422 (left) and NGC 5474 (right).
This was a welcome return to astrophotography after a 3 month hiatus, which had already been a sparse year since July 2015. With just one night to work with, the one-shot-color Canon 60Da was the camera of choice, and it allowed me to capture 3 objects that night. I’ll post those soon, but I will only add this one to the galaxy gallery since it’s been about 10 years since I’ve captured a wide field version of M101.

20 x 8 minute exposures
Sky-Watcher Esprit 100mm f/5.5
Canon 60Da
AP900GTO
Captured in Pinion Pines, above Frazier Park, CA

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Telescope for Professor Hawking

It was a tremendous honor to have taken part in setting up a Celestron telescope for Professor Hawking in February.  Since our first light experience in February, amidst clouds, rain, and snow in Cambridge, he has recently taken new astrophotos under better conditions. I am thrilled that he is enjoying his new setup and I look forward to checking out what he captures next!  I provided some commentary regarding our project with Celestron, which he has posted to his newsfeed: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=853418634745235.

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M33 Triangulum Galaxy

M33, Triangulum Galaxy

M33, Triangulum Galaxy

L 15 x 10 min, RGB 5-7 x 10 min each
AP130GT f/6.3
Orion Parsec 8300M
Taken in Siskiyou county near Modoc National Forest, CA

This image of M33 Triangulum Galaxy was captured in September 2013 and reprocessed in June 2015. This was my first effective usage of PixInsight’s Dynamic Background Extraction (DBE) processing tool which I applied individually to each LRGB channel.  It was helpful in removing color gradients in the image, allowing me to get more aggressive with color and background levels.

This beautiful galaxy is about 2.7 million light years away and is visible to the naked eye from very dark skies.

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Starry Night Over the Trinity Alps

Milky Way over Canyon Creek in the Trinity Alps

Milky Way over Canyon Creek in the Trinity Alps

Canon 60Da
Sigma 18-25mm f/1.8 DC (set to 18mm f/1.8)
30 seconds at ISO 2500
6 panel mosaic, each with the same exposure, no superimposing, all shown in 1 layer

This starry night over the Trinity Alps was captured Saturday morning, May 23rd 2015 from the Canyon Creek Lakes. Desirae and I backpacked into this beautiful mountain paradise and began to understand what the Trinity Alps had to offer. This awesome campsite was some 9 miles into the trail which provided the view you see here to the SE. The north had a view of the Trinity Alp’s highest and most craggiest peaks, including Sawtooth, Wedding Cake, and Thompson.  I was carrying the rather heavy Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC lens, not to mention a full sized photo tripod and the Canon 60Da. This extra bulk was arguably impractical for backpacking but it was worth while! Our campsite withstood harsh thunderstorms Friday afternoon.  I set my alarm for 1:30AM and woke up to a perfectly clear sky.  The few day old crescent Moon had already set, leaving only star light, perhaps some skyglow, and some natural airglow (greenish glow in the image) to illuminate the granite and glaciated peaks.  The Canyon Creek valley filled with fog which was easy to spot that night. This fog, blanketing over many streams and waterfalls, could explain the groves of coastal Redwoods that thrived there some 90 miles inland from Eureka.

Star Trails over the Trinity Alps

Star Trails over the Trinity Alps

Canon 60Da
Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC
Single 75 minute exposure, no stacking
35mm ISO200, f/5

I believe in single shot star trail images because they truly capture and represent Earth’s rotation and passage of time, including capturing meteors and satellites, if they chance getting in the shot. Pure and simple, just a long shutter, same approach as a film camera.

 

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